It was taken as seriously as an exhibition game can be, at least by the Oakland Raiders and their fans.
Given a chance to show their stuff against San Francisco, their more glamorous and successful cross-bay rival, the Raiders couldn't prevent second-half scoring passes by Jim Druckenmiller and Jeff Garcia in a 16-8 loss to the 49ers on Monday night.
Billed as the Battle of the Bay, the game produced the Raiders' first sellout in two years, allowing a home game to be shown on television locally for the first time since the 1997 regular-season opener against Kansas City.
Even the 49ers were impressed.
"There's a lot of excitement for football in this city," San Francisco linebacker Ken Norton Jr. said. "It was electric. It was fun. It sure didn't feel like a preseason game. This felt real."
It was the first meeting between the teams since the Raiders returned to Oakland in 1995, ending a 13-year stay in Los Angeles, and marked San Francisco's first appearance in Oakland since 1981.
"This game is absolutely great," Oakland receiver Tim Brown said. "It's the first time we've played these guys since we've been back up here. I hope the NFL finds a way to do this every year."
But the game went beyond hype for the players, seeking to make one more impression in a bid for jobs before Tuesday's league-wide cutdown to 65 players.
And a first-quarter ruling also raised questions about the NFL's latest incarnation of instant replay, which failed to overturn a very questionable on-field call.
Te Raiders defense was all over Steve Young, who played the first quarter. He was sacked three times, threw an interception to defensive end James Harris and was pressured by defensive tackle Darrell Russell into an intentional grounding call in the end zone that resulted in a safety.
The replay question came up on Rich Gannon's 10-yard completion to James Jett, who was hit by R.W. McQuarters and Zack Bronson and lost the ball. The officials initially ruled the ground caused the fumble, despite at least one replay showing the ball coming loose before Jett hit the ground.
After the play was reviewed, the officials told coach Steve Mariucci that there was a quick whistle, which immediately rendered the play dead and irreversible.
"They admitted it was a fumble," Mariucci said. "But the whistle blew inadvertently by an official who didn't see the fumble. Now, the ball's dead. It would have gone our way had the whistle not blown as quickly as it did. Maybe the system, we're going to have to think it through some more."
San Francisco got a more extended look at Lawrence Phillips, who had a nifty 12-yard run off a draw to help set up Wade Richey's 48-yard field goal with 1:41 remaining in the second. But Phillips, who had six yards on three carries in his 49ers debut two weeks ago, finished with just 23 yards on 10 carries.
The Raiders, seeking a reliable backup to Gannon, wasted no time in playing Bobby Hoying, obtained in a trade last week with Philadelphia.
Hoying, who played for Raiders head coach Jon Gruden while the two were with the Eagles, led a drive ending in Michael Husted's second field goal, a 32-yarder that pulled Oakland to 9-8 with 21 seconds left in the third period. But Hoying also was intercepted twice, the last time by Pierson Prioleau in the final minutes.
Druckenmiller, in three-way battle with Garcia and Steve Stenstrom for the No. 2 job behind Young, was in the midst of another tough outing when he hooked up with rookie Damon Griffin for a 55-yard touch5:01 remaining in the third quarter, came one play after Raiders defensive back Donnel Day dropped a sure interception.
Garcia extended San Francisco's advantage to 16-8 when he threw a 15-yard TD pass to Na'il Benjamin with 2:36 left.
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